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2012 Buick Regal GS: First Drive Page 2

 
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2012 Buick Regal GS

The ride's also been lowered 10 mm, springs are 20 percent stiffer, and the adaptive suspension and steering offered on other Regals is standard here. It's upgraded with new programming so that its base setting feels like the middle setting on other Regals, with additional Sport and GS modes that progressively clamp down on the shocks and firm up the car's steering feel.

2012 Buick Regal GS

2012 Buick Regal GS

Enlarge Photo
On the Milford track, we took a lap in each of the lower settings before dialing up GS. The progression is smartly done. In normal mode, the Regal rolls predictably into corners, while the Sport mode gives up most of that pliable pitching for something a lot closer to neutral than you'd expect from a front-driver.

In GS mode the Regal brims with a well-sorted feel that encourages deep dives into corners and lots of hard braking, and overcooking it into corners doesn't provoke anything more dramatic than the usual tire protest. No M3, no RS4, the Regal GS is still tighter and more controlled than Acura's TSX, with the Volvo S60 and its computer-controlled suspension clearly in its sights. We couldn't drive on public roads between laps to judge how the track feel stacked up against road comfort, though. The stability control can be turned off via a switch on the dash right next to the Sport button.

Buick's engineers point proudly to the brake package on the GS, Brembo rotors in front with ventilated discs, paired with the stock CXL pieces in back, and they feel like the breakout piece of the driving package. They're tucked behind 19-inch Goodyear RSA all-season tires or Pirelli 255-series 20-inchers on our test car, which Buick says can grip to about 0.9g before breaking free for good.

On other fronts, the Regal plays it safe by leaving its gorgeous body mostly untouched. The changes are light but on point: the front air intakes are now metallic-shrouded blades (with front parking sensors, which you can't get on other Regals), the chin spoiler's flared more, the exhaust tips are squared off and faired into the rear end tightly. Inside, the basic-black interior gets lovely white stitching that runs across the seat in a way Volkswagen would be proud of. The GS' unique sport seats look fantastic and aren't overly firm--the bolsters squish and give a fair amount under pressure, which should pay off for the more usual highway stints behind the wheel.

2012 Buick Regal GS

2012 Buick Regal GS

Enlarge Photo
The GS' base price of $35,310 includes some tweaks unavailable in other Regals. There's a chunky flat-bottomed sport steering wheel with audio controls, leather upholstery, a Harman Kardon stereo system, and front and rear parking sensors. As it is on other 2012 Regals, the GS' navigation system is now of the touchscreen variety; the controller knob on the console still will help you pick out destinations as it did in years before, tediously, but now you can tap the screen for quicker information access.

Coming later this year is a new Buick IntelliLink connectivity system. Like other similar apps, IntelliLink hooks up smartphones to the car via USB or Bluetooth and enables on-screen, voice, or steering-wheel control. Pandora and Stitcher streaming also are enabled.

Options on the Regal GS are limited to a sunroof, metallic paint, the navigation system, and the Pirelli summer tires. Opt for them all, and the Regal GS sits just under the $40,000 mark.

At that price point, the  Regal GS has some marketing work ahead of it--mostly, pointing out to the world that it's here, since it's a blue-sky car with few natural competitors. Rear-drivers like the Infiniti G37 and BMW 3-Series are more pricey, and even a manual-turbo form Audi A4 can nick $50,000. Picking a fight with an Acura TSX or a turbo Volvo S60 makes better sense, but in truth, the car that comes to mind as the Regal's natural prey is its distant mechanical relative, the 9-3 Turbo--a car that could already be dead if the Saab zombie ever shambles to a complete stop.

The Regal GS comes up shy of the power and traction an RS4 or even a T5 S60 can dole out, but on the Marco Polo heat map, it's getting a lot warmer. Fanbois want all the needles pegged, all the avenues exhausted, but the Regal GS splits the sport-sedan distinction right at the hyphen--exactly where Buick should be. 

That's what we call progress. In the place of Roadmasters, now we have Regals. And now we have one that's faster, lower, smaller, and nimbler than anyone would have bet just four years ago.







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  1. You guys think Toyota got the Tundra right? Ha Ha
     
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